Shortly after the invention of photography, police quickly realized its utility in fighting, or at least dealing with, crime.
Police in Europe and the US began using photography to keep records of criminals starting in the 1840s, only a couple years after the invention of photography itself. By 1888, French policeman Alphonse Bertillon had created the template for the "mugshot," featuring a single photo of the subject straight-on, coupled with a photo of the subject in profile.
Since then, the countless mugshots taken of criminals (and the wrongfully arrested) around the world have given us a photographic record of the kind of history we can't really get anyplace else.
Many of our surviving images of the past are of royalty, nobility, and the wealthy. We learn about kings and dukes, patrons of the arts and wealthy merchants. Far more rarely do we have a chance to truly glimpse into the lives of ordinary people, let alone criminals.
Mugshots are a record of the past that few people see, and their confrontational nature, with the subject staring directly at the camera, forces us to confront their humanity. People in mugshots are divorced from their context, in many ways, and allow us to see them as the people that they are, not figments of a long gone past.
Above, you'll find some of the most striking mugshots that history has to offer.
Next, see some of the best famous mugshots of artists, leaders, and entertainers throughout history.